Entries tagged with “Barack Obama”.


Yes that is what we are entering as we watch Obama become the first African-American president. Attending an MLK Day Rally yesterday it was quite apparent that for many in the black community this is a huge leap forward.

In some respects MLK’s dream has come true, but there is still plenty of work to be done. Below is a prayer from St Francis of Assisi and the text of MLK’s speech to reflect on as we celebrate our new prez.

Prayer of St Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, union;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

And (I highlighted some key parts in bold)

I Have a Dream

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.[I would say that 2009 is not the end but a new beginning.] Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

You can view audio and video of the speech as well.

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I got back into the swing a litte better this month of blogging here.  It was a good month, but hard to believe we’ve been in Minnesota for almost a year!

This was a big month for this blog as I finally completed the move from Blogger to WordPress and changed the name!

In case you missed it this was a presidential election year!  I shared why I am a moderate and also some thoughts on having schools be a polling place.  Many people where up in arms and afraid that the election of Barack Obama was going to ruin our country so I posted two videos to remind myself and others that God is always in control.

I posted an e-mail forward about poverty that I thought was insightful into being poor. In a similar vein I took part in Bloggers Unite for Refugees and shared some of my thoughts about the refugees I’ve encountered here in Minneapolis.

Last year I wrote about Five Forgotten Fights, sadly to say – they are all still forgotten. I also did a better job of writing about the sermons I heard at church.  The first was about having too much stuff!  We went to a medical missions conference in Kentucky and heard lots of good, challenging, and inspirational messages. Another sermon this month was about using it or losing it.

I finished Billy Graham’s book Peace with God, which was a nice change of pace. I also read Martin Dugard’s Into Africa which told the story of Stanley and Livingstone.  I offered my 10 Rules of Internet Safety and was surprised at how many people actually read them!  As Thanksgiving approached I shared about a news story which talked about the need for food in America.  As we entered the Christmas season I encouarged all of us to think about the ways we are blessed and how the HIV/AIDS crisis is still rampant.

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Well election euphoria is still rampant here in Minneapolis. People were dancing in the streets, setting off fireworks, and more Tuesday night. I’m not going to discuss politics today but more post my thoughts of working in a school that hosted a polling site.

A lot more went into this than I expected. A few of us (including the principal) had a meeting to talk about logistics of the day. We had to make sure our students were safe, didn’t interfere with the voting, and our school looks good.

The way our building is setup we don’t have a secure way to section off part of the school, which turned out to be fine. A funny part of the logistics is that the school district won’t allow the “general public” to use our restroom facilities. So someone ponied up the money to rent port-a-potties. Yes, we had 4 port-a-potties sitting outside our building.

Anyway I had the chance to talk to many of the students getting off the buses. Their reactions were wide ranging and interesting. Here are a few of them:

– “Did you vote Mr Cross?” Me: “Not yet” “Ok, be responsible.”
– “What is going on??” (she obviously didn’t get the phone call the night before)
– One student walked past the line of waiting voters and started chanting, “Obama, Obama, Obama.”
– Another student later went through and pointed at people saying, “McCain, McCain, McCain.”
– Fortunately, for the last two the people just laughed.
– Some voters waiting in line very early threatened to call the cops on a student holding an Obama sign if we didn’t make him put it away – we did. The only cop that I saw around all day was our Liaison.
– Throughout the day students would walk by the voting room and say something like Obama or McCain. Interestingly, no kids said anything about our levy or referendum on the ballot!
– Every polling site had a Kids Voting Booth. It kept track of which school the students attended – not necessarily the polling site. Our school had 67 students vote – 65 voted for Obama,29 voted to pass the school levy.
– Voters lined the hall, out the door, and around the corner… the wait wasn’t ever more than 30-40 minutes.
– Voters enjoyed the chance to talk and catch up with their neighbors and friends.

It was good to see the kids react to the election and to see democracy in action. We have a large percentage of students who are first or second generation immigrants. Some of these student’s parents aren’t able to vote but they got to see the power of democracy. A co-worker said she ran into a bunch of Somali’s cheering in the streets – and they couldn’t vote but were so excited to watch democracy in action.

A final note, the Family Liaison, was in charge of working with the election judges and making sure everything went smoothly. Talking to the election judge mid-way through the day, the judge commented to her that they had gotten a lot of comments about welcoming the school had been and especially the principal. My co-worker was shocked because our principal wasn’t even there. Everyone thought the Liaison was the principal!! A funny story from election day.

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Go VOTE! Here are two songs for you:

Savior on Capitol Hill, Derek Webb

I’m so tired of these mortal men
with their hands on their wallets and their hearts full of sin
scared of their enemies, scared of their friends
and always running for re-election
so come to DC if it be thy will
because we’ve never had a savior on Capitol Hill

you can always trust the devil or a politician
to be the devil or a politician
but beyond that friends you’d best beware
’cause at the Pentagon bar they’re an inseparable pair
and as long as the lobbyists are paying their bills
we’ll never have a savior on Capitol Hill

[Bridge]
all of our problems gonna disappear
when we can whisper right in that President’s ear
he could walk right across the reflection pool
in his combat boots and ten thousand dollar suit

you can render unto Caesar everything that’s his
you can trust in his power to come to your defense
it’s the way of the world, the way of the gun
it’s the trading of an evil for a lesser one
so don’t hold your breath or your vote until
you think you’ve finally found a savior up on Capitol Hill


If a Song Could Be President, Over the Rhine

If a song could be president
We’d hum on Election Day
The gospel choir would start to sway
And we’d all have a part to play

The first lady would free her hips
Pull a microphone to her lips
Break our hearts with Rhythm and Blues
Steve Earle would anchor the news

We’d vote for a melody
Pass it around on an MP3
All our best foreign policy
Would be built on harmony

If a song could be president
We’d fly a jukebox to the moon
All our founding fathers’ 45’s
Lightnin’ Hopkins and Patsy Cline
If a song could be president

If a song could be president
We could all add another verse
Life would teach us to rehearse
Till we found a key change

Break out of this minor key
Half-truths and hypocrisy
We wouldn’t need an underachiever-in-chief
If a song could be president

We’d make Neil Young a Senator
Even though he came from Canada
Emmylou would be Ambassador
World leaders would listen to her

They would show us where our country went wrong
Strum their guitars on the White House lawn
John Prine would run the FBI
All the criminals would laugh and cry
If a song could be president

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In this heated election season it is important that all Christ followers act in accordance with Scripture and love everyone for who they are. As a unique creation of God, each person holds the image of God within them. Everyone from the most right-wing to the most left, black, white, elite, poor, old, and young should be treated with dignity and respect.

With that said, each of us will make the best decision we think possible on November 4. As American’s we should go to the voting booth and vote within the best of our knowledge and conscience.

In that vain, Jim Wallis of Sojourner’s wrote this about Christian Civility:

So maybe we should have some rules of civility for this election. Let me suggest “Five Rules of Christian Civility.”

  1. We Christians should be in the pocket of no political party, but should evaluate both candidates and parties by our biblically-based moral compass.
  2. We don’t vote on only one issue, but see biblical foundations for our concerns over many issues.
  3. We advocate for a consistent ethic of life from womb to tomb, and one that challenges the selective moralities of both the left and the right.
  4. We will respect the integrity of our Christian brothers and sisters in their sincere efforts to apply Christian commitments to the important decisions of this election, knowing that people of faith and conscience will be voting both ways in this election year.
  5. We will not attack our fellow Christians as Democratic or Republican partisans, but rather will expect and respect the practice of putting our faith first in this election year, even if we reach different conclusions.

On Nov. 4, Christians will not be able to vote for the kingdom of God. It is not on the ballot. Yet there are very important choices to make that will significantly impact the common good and the health of this nation — and of the world. So we urge our Christian brothers and sisters to exercise their crucial right to vote and to apply their Christian conscience to those decisions. And in the finite and imperfect political decisions of this and any election, we promise to respect the Christian political conscience of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I think we can all live within these 5 “rules” of discussion and life. What do you think of these?

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Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani both mocked Barack Obama’s career as a community organizer. Palin made the most blatant mockery of the profession by comparing her experience as mayor to his as an organizer by saying “a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

As I’ve thought about the comments they have made me a little upset, in some ways my job and experience is tied very closely to that of an organizer. As to be expected the community of organizers are very upset, no doubt organizing against McCain & Palin!

The joke played well to the party faithful, but in my opinion, mockery may be the best form of flattery, but its not a good way to get votes. Okay, so maybe we shouldn’t make fun of her experience as a mayor of a small town.

Christianity Today
wrote that

Obama was incensed by the mockery, asking, “Why would that kind of work be ridiculous? Who are they (Republicans) fighting for… They think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day, that working with them to try to improve their lives is somehow not relevant to the presidency?”

I’m not sure how any one could say that there is no responsibilities in community organizing. Essentially organizing is the most basic form of democracy – working at the grassroots level gathering support for community change. I don’t know much about Obama’s work in Chicago, but in general organizing is tireless work, often calling for long hours and at times small, incremental successes.

The Wikipedia definition of community organizing may shed some light on the situation:

Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America’s promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. From winning living wages to expanding affordable housing to improving the quality of public schools to getting health coverage for the poor and elderly, community organizers have made and will continue to make our communities and our country better for all of us.

It is my understanding that the Republican Party doesn’t really like these issues. I am a moderate who tends to lean conservative on many issues, but these are issues that are important to really discuss and actually act on during the 4 years between presidential campaigns.

Less Controversial – A Christian Perspective


Surprisingly Christianity Today quietly chastised Giuliani and Palin for their remarks.

for a party still trying to shake off the stereotype that Republicans are out of touch concerning the plight of the poor and care only for the rich. Certainly pro-lifers and others who help the poor do their own brands of community organizing in dysfunctional pockets of society. Whether community organizing is the best way to help the poor is one thing, but to dismiss out of hand the work of someone willing at least to try to help is another entirely.

Jim Wallis of Sojourners was offended by these comments, but more importantly he provided comments from a variety of faith-based community organizers, some of which are or were Republicans.

When people come together in my church hall to improve our community, they’re building the Kingdom of God in San Diego. We see the fruits of community organizing in safer streets, new parks, and new affordable housing. It’s the spirit of democracy for people to have a say and we need more of it,” said Bishop Roy Dixon, prelate of the Southern California 4th ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, member of the San Diego Organizing Project and former board chair of PICO National Network.

I should also note this paragraph about what community organizers have been doing since Hurricane Katrina to help prepare for Hurricane Gustav. So community organizers were doing a ton of work to help evacuate and prepare people for a potential disaster:

“Perk,” as we used to call him, reported on the enormous consequences of 2 million people being evacuated because of Hurricane Gustav, much of the state now being without power, how hard cities like Baton Rouge were hit, the tens of thousands of people in shelters and churches, and the continuing problems caused by heavy rains and flooding. Then he talked about how their community organizers were responding to all of this — responding to hundreds of service calls, assisting local officials in evacuation plans, aiding evacuees without transportation, coordinating shelters and opening new ones, providing food, essential services, and financial aid to those in most need. Since Katrina, Perry’s Louisiana interfaith organizations have played a lead role in securing millions of dollars to help thousands of families return to New Orleans and rebuild their homes and their lives.

Another blogger from Sojourners, Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah had this to say:

Community organizing attempts to give voice to the voiceless in our society (not just the powerful and the elite) and attempts to build influence based on relationships, rather than positions. Community organizing provides a prophetic voice because it arises from outside the system of power from the local community. Those feel to me like very biblical values.

Sojourners has published some great articles in the past about faith-based community organizing – Organizing Hope and Saul Alinsky goes to Church.

Elana Wolowitz responded at the Wellstone Action Blog with a post entitled: Responsibilities of an Organizer. She had this to say:

Being an organizer means putting the needs of the community above yourself and your ego. Your task is to influence the powerful with little more than the common will, and do so while developing the leadership of those around you. A good organizer is always working to put themselves out of a job, because many others should be prepared to step up and take their place. You listen and learn, coordinate and plan, arrive early and stay late, and do the real work that improves people’s lives.

I guess this means putting people first – not country first.

A local paper, Minn Post interviewed several organizers around the Twin Cities including

Elana Wolowitz, communications director for Wellstone Action!, is quick to point out that the nonprofit organization she works for is bipartisan. She’s just as quick to note that Palin’s “remarks were insulting and inappropriate to a field of work that is made up of people who are really sacrificing of themselves to give back to the community.”
Chuck Repke, longtime executive director of the District 2 Community Council in St. Paul, said “Clearly [Palin] doesn’t have much understanding of what community organizers do in a larger city.”

The District 2 Community Council facilitates communication between 10 neighborhoods in northeast St. Paul. It also offers English classes, carries out recycling efforts and crime prevention measures, and holds school supply drives, among other programs.

“The big thing of a community organizer is empowering the citizens to be able to take control of their communities, to give a voice to people who normally are voiceless, to empower those people who tend not to have much power and to facilitate the development of leadership in the community. It’s about making other people have power, not power for yourself,” Repke explained.

Yes the Democrats need to be thick skinned and should expect some harsh words and criticism about their lives. But in their remarks, Giuliani and Palin attacked a profession, not a person. I would venture to say that Republicans don’t really like Community Organizers too much because they are the opposite of big business and oil. Organizers are often organizing against “the establishment”, it is the nature of the beast.

Two late posts about organizing from The Moderate Voice and Daily Kos (don’t think about them as a liberal blog, take a second and look at their photo diary of organizing).

What do you think?

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Congratulations to Barack Obama for finally clinching the Democratic primary. Let the fun of the general election cycle begin!! I’m sure this fall’s Olympics will provide a needed respite from the political talk.

Throughout the primary season it has been interesting to watch Obama electrify crowds and become the first black presidential candidate. Throughout the last six months I’ve had conversations with a variety of people, from a spectrum of backgrounds about Obama and the primaries in general.

Often in these conversations someone would say something about the fact that Obama’s candidacy shows that we have overcome racism and all the hard work of the civil rights movement is finally over. I would sadly inform them that while the vast majority of America has moved beyond overt racism there are still large pockets of downright hostility towards black individuals.

Until moving to Minneapolis I would say that much of my life has been spent in places where racism is fairly common, except for my year in New Jersey. (I would broadly define places as counties or areas, not specific towns) I was raised to see all people as equal but there were pockets around my county where racism was still prevalent. My time in central Indiana was surrounded by racism, even in my generation and those younger than me. It is a different type of racism, though.

I think sadly all of this is highlighted in a series of attacks against Obama staffers and offices throughout Indiana. Now maybe these types of attacks happened throughout the country and my ear (or eye) was peeked because of the mention of Indiana, but who knows. The Obama campaign I think rightly tried to downplay the incidents to prevent a national media storm, but we can’t deny the reality – racism still exists in this country. I would say that it still occurs both covertly and overtly.

I’ll let you read the Washington Post article yourself, but I spent several years working in Muncie and a total of 7 years living and interacting with the broader East-Central Indiana area. Nothing in the article really surprised me – which is sad.

But in historical retrospect it isn’t surprising since in 1924 a KKK member was elected governor of Indiana and the midwest actually had a larger KKK presence than the South. Indeed Marion, IN is home to the last known lynching in America and resides between Muncie and Kokomo – both mentioned in the WP article. Kokomo also hosted the largest ever rally of the KKK.

What do you think about the current state of racism?

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